The Boeing factory at Paine Field in Everett. The Boeing Tour that begins at the Future of Flight Aviation Center in Mukilteo is one of the county’s top attractions for tourists. (Boeing Co.)

The Boeing factory at Paine Field in Everett. The Boeing Tour that begins at the Future of Flight Aviation Center in Mukilteo is one of the county’s top attractions for tourists. (Boeing Co.)

County boosters launch a ‘sustainable tourism’ initiative

Lots of visitors is mostly a good thing for the economy — but not at the expense of quality of life.

EVERETT — Want to know if a festival or farmers market is attracting hip, young urban types?

Here’s one metric: Count the number of man buns per 100 people, said David Beurle, CEO of Future IQ, at Snohomish County’s first Tourism Summit last month.

Regionally, tourism is on the upswing. Last year, the county generated $2 billion from tourism and outdoor recreation — the highest amount ever, county officials said.

To draw even more visitors (with or without man buns), Snohomish County has launched a new $1.4 million initiative, “Tourism 2.0,” funded by the county’s lodging tax on overnight stays. (Proceeds from the lodging tax can only be used for tourism.)

“Tourism 2.0 is about stewardship, creating lasting economic, social and environmental benefits across the region,” County Executive Dave Somers told summit participants.

A portion of the money was used to hire Future IQ and two other firms. Together with the county government, they’re creating a “sustainable tourism” model — one that protects natural resources, benefits visitors and preserves residents’ quality of life. Minneapolis-based Future IQ is responsible for developing a program to attract visitors and ensure that tourist destinations aren’t overrun. It recently worked with Travel Oregon to produce a program in support of the destination community of the Columbia River Gorge, “an area like Snohomish County with popular outdoor assets that sometimes struggles with visitor congestion points.”

Milltown Creative, an Everett marketing firm, is developing the program’s brand and message, targeting travelers who support and appreciate sustainability.

Gibson Media, a Seattle-based marketing firm, will identify the best ways to reach those travelers through print, social media and other avenues.

Sustainable tourism has always been on the table, but its role has been elevated. “It is the foundation of the 2018-2022 strategic plan,” said Amy Spain, executive director of the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau, a nonprofit marketing agency engaged by the county.

On the plus side, “More tourists result in more jobs and an improved standard of living in our communities,” said Snohomish County Council Councilman Terry Ryan, who chairs the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.

The Jetty Island ferry in Everett. (Port of Everett)

The Jetty Island ferry in Everett. (Port of Everett)

But in the absence of a plan for sustainable tourism, “there is the risk of … overuse and unintended consequences,” Beurle told the summit. Participants were a mix of elected officials, federally recognized tribes and tourism professionals.

As part of the initiative, the county is trying to reshape tourism promotion, county spokesman Kent Patton said.

One big change: In January, the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau moved into the same building that houses the Snohomish County Parks, Recreation & Tourism department at Willis Tucker Park in Snohomish.

Tom Teigen, the director of county parks, recreation and tourism, said the change is intended to foster collaboration “as we build a model for sustainable tourism in the new Tourism 2.0 roll out.”

It’s hoped the new configuration will allow the various agencies “to speak with one voice,” Patton said.

“We certainly have benefited from the proximity to one another,” said Spain, who called the tourism bureau the “support team for the initiative.”

At the close of the two-day summit, participants broke into small groups to discuss what tourism should be like over the next 15 years and how best to keep locals in the loop. Tourism can raise residents’ hackles when it disrupts their lives.

“You have to have residents involved from the beginning,” Patton said.

The Tulalip Resort Casino and Spa. (Snohomish County Tourism Bureau)

The Tulalip Resort Casino and Spa. (Snohomish County Tourism Bureau)

To be sure, travelers benefit local businesses, said one participant, but when roads and infrastructure that serve the community and visitors aren’t maintained, residents might take a dim view of tourism.

One way for residents to voice concerns is through local neighborhood associations, said Everett City Councilwoman Ethel McNeal, who participated in a discussion.

The summit findings will be used to inform the Tourism 2.0 initiative, Spain said. “It’s a work in progress.”

Tourism is the one of the county’s largest industries. Direct-tourism related jobs employ nearly 11,000 and generate about $23 million in local taxes and $58 million in state taxes, according to a summit news release.

One recent bright spot has been the creation of a statewide tourism promotion program.

A previous incarnation was killed during the Great Recession by budget cuts. Until March, Washington was the only U.S. state without a statewide tourism marketing program.

In last year’s draft Strategic Tourism Plan for Snohomish County, the authors bemoaned the 2011 closing of the state Tourism Office. They speculated that its closure might make it difficult for Snohomish and other Washington counties to compete with states with a statewide tourism office.

“I am optimistic – in fact ecstatic – that Washington State will soon have a marketing organization,” Spain said.

Jon Snyder, who also attended the summit and is the outdoor recreation and economic development policy adviser to Gov. Jay Inslee, noted that outdoor recreation alone supports nearly 200,000 jobs in the state.

Janice Podsada: jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097

Snohomish County’s hot tourism spots

The Flying Heritage Collection of historic airplanes at Paine Field. (Snohomish County Tourism Bureau)

The Flying Heritage Collection of historic airplanes at Paine Field. (Snohomish County Tourism Bureau)

These are the county’s top attractions and activities (in no particular order), according to the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau:

Experiences:

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Homes in The Point subdivision border the construction of the Go East Corp. landfill on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mudslide briefly stalls housing project at former Everett landfill

The slide buried two excavators in September. Work has resumed to make room for nearly 100 new houses.

Ameé Quiriconi, Snohomish author, podcaster and entrepreneur.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Snohomish author’s handbook charts a course for female entrepreneurs

She’s invented sustainable concrete, run award-winning wedding venues and worked in business… Continue reading

FILE - In this June 12, 2017, file photo, a Boeing 787 airplane being built for Norwegian Air Shuttle is shown at Boeing Co.'s assembly facility, in Everett, Wash. Boeing is dealing with a new production problem involving its 787 jet, in which inspections have found flaws in the way that sections of the rear of the plane were joined together. Boeing said Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, it's not an immediate safety risk but could cause the planes to age prematurely. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
FAA memo reveals more Boeing 787 manufacturing defects

The company said the problems do not present an immediate safety-of-flight issue.

A final environmental cleanup is set to begin next year at the ExxonMobil and ADC properties, neighboring the Port of Everett. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Department of Ecology.
Port of Everett to get $350K for its costs in soil clean-up

The end is finally in sight for a project to scrub petroleum from two waterfront parcels, owned by ExxonMobil and ADC.

Shawn Loring, owner of Lazy Boy Brewing, received $10,000 through Everett's federal CARES Act funding.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Everett, Snohomish breweries to open on Everett waterfront

Lazy Boy Brewing and Sound to Summit see a bright future at the port’s Waterfront Place.

A woman walks by models of Boeing Co. aircraft, including the manufacturer's new Boeing 777X, at the Dubai Air Show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
India’s Akasa Air buys engines worth $4.5 billion for new 737 Maxs

Boeing clinched a deal at the Dubai Air Show to sell 72 of the jets for some $9 billion.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson speaks to lawmakers as Michael Stumo, holding a photo of his daughter Samya Rose Stumo, and his wife Nadia Milleron, sit behind him during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on the implementation of aviation safety reform at the US Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. Samya Stumo was among those killed in a Boeing 737 Max 8 crash in 2019. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)
FAA says Boeing is appointing people lacking expertise to oversee airplane certification

The company was replacing senior FAA-authorized engineers who took early retirement during the pandemic.

FILE - In this Wednesday, July 17, 2019, file photo, Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., center, talks with Paul Njoroge, right, who lost his wife and three young children, as Michael Stumo, left, who lost his daughter, looks on before the start of a House Transportation subcommittee hearing on aviation safety, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The year since the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max has been a journey through grief, anger and determination for the families of those who died, as well as having far-reaching consequences for the aeronautics industry as it brought about the grounding of all Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 jets, which remain out of service. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
Boeing settles with Ethiopia 737 Max crash victims

The agreement allows victims’ families to pursue claims in U.S. courts instead of their home country.

Dennie Willard, a Navy veteran, became homeless in 2014 and began job training through HopeWorks at Renew Home and Decor. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Looking for his ‘last job,’ veteran found new work, new life

U.S. Navy veteran Dennis Willard, once homeless, now works for the nonprofit that helped him.

People hold signs in protest of the vaccine mandate along Airport Road next to Boeing on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Report: 11,000 Boeing workers seek vaccination exemptions

Reuters says executives are scrambling to balance a company and federal mandate with the need to retain workers.

Port of Everett CEO Lisa Lefeber points back to the new retail site at Fisherman's Harbor at Waterfront Place during a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021 in Everett, Washington. The project will construct two new buildings to house the new Asian-inspired Fisherman Jack’s restaurant, South Fork Bakery, and three marine-related offices adjacent to the new Waterfront Place Apartments and Hotel Indigo.
 (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Port of Everett breaks ground on a new ‘restaurant row’

American-Chinese restaurant Fisherman Jack’s and South Fork Bakery are two businesses that will call the waterfront home.

A private plane taxis past the Paine Field passenger terminal on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Forecast: A quadrupling of Paine Field passengers by 2040

How should Everett’s airport handle rebounding demand? A virtual meeting is set for Tuesday to talk about a master plan.